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Overhauling Ireland's marine planning and consenting regime

Out-Law Analysis | 15 Aug 2019 | 8:44 am | 2 min. read

Large offshore wind generation is now an integral component of the Irish Government's energy policy and twin objectives of meeting electricity demand and satisfying societal and EU pressure for that electricity to be green.

To deliver on that objective, and in parallel to other measures, the Irish Government has published a proposed marine planning policy statement (MPPS) (18-page / 942KB PDF) together with detailed draft legislation, intended to overhaul and update the marine planning system. It is intended that the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill (MPDM) be introduced in the Dáil (the Irish parliament) in autumn 2019.

In contrast to the existing dated and disjointed marine planning regime, the MPDM seeks to codify matters and introduce a cohesive single marine consenting system. Specifically, it is an express recognition of the need to simplify the approval process for the development of capital projects in the 12-mile foreshore such as electricity and gas interconnectors, offshore wind projects and port development. Critically, the MPDM is intended to eliminate unnecessary process duplication where developments are assessed under both the foreshore and planning regimes. The draft MPSS will be introduced on a non-statutory basis until the MPDM legislation is finalised, and will then be refreshed on a six-yearly cycle.

Monaghan Garrett

Garrett Monaghan

Partner

Putting in place of a robust offshore consenting regime is a critical first step (of several) to seed developer and investor confidence in the Government's willingness to deliver on the considerable ambition set out in its Climate Action Plan.

The publication of the draft MPSS and related legislation is a necessary and strong demonstration of intent by the Irish Government to facilitate and optimise the development of Ireland's foreshore and maritime assets. Putting in place of a robust offshore consenting regime is a critical first step (of several) to seed developer and investor confidence in the Government's willingness to deliver on the considerable ambition set out in its July 2019 Climate Action Plan.

Under the Climate Action Plan, the Irish Government has sent an unequivocal message to the international energy community that it is in the market for in excess of 9GW of additional green power. The momentum needs to be sustained for a minimum of 10 years in order to deliver these large amounts of megawatts; the electricity is needed to meet demographic growth, electrification of heat and transport targets and sheer industrial demand.

Delivering offshore wind at scale in Ireland has not progressed to date for several reasons, the primary one being cost competitiveness as against onshore wind. However, the huge technology-driven drop in the "levelised" cost of offshore energy in the past decade, has now effectively killed off competitiveness argument.

The Irish Government's aim is for at least 70% of the country's electricity supply to be generated from renewables by 2030. Ireland is subject to an EU target to supply 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, although it is accepted that this target will not be met.

The MPSS sets out the blueprint for the future of Ireland's marine planning system; it targets overarching policies and principles  that marine and other public planning bodies are required to observe and implement; extending to public engagement, transparency, enforcement, governance, environmental assessment, social and economic benefits.

Garrett Monaghan is an energy law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.